Komodo National Park is located between Sumbawa and Flores Island, precisely at the western tip of the Province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). It was founded in 1980 and is best known as the habitat of giant Monitor lizards known as Komodo Dragons. This park was established with the aim of protecting the endangered Komodo dragon. As the park is not only the last sanctuary for the Komodo dragon but also a unique area of marine biodiversity. It became a man and biosphere reserve in 1986 and entered the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1991. With its outstanding submarine richness, it is not surprising that the park is one of the world’s finest destinations for scuba divers. The park, with an area of 1,817 km², consists of Komodo Island, Rinca Island, Padar Island and numerous smaller islands. The famous giant lizards that are unique to Komodo National Park are not only of great interest to tourists, but also to scientists studying the theory of evolution.
Komodo National Park is home to about 3,500 people who live in four villages. The largest settlement is Komodo Village on Komodo Island; the other settlements are Rinca Village and Kerora Village on Rinca Island; and Paparagan Village on Paparagan Island. Most of the people in Komodo National Park make their living out of fishing. Some people earn extra income by carving wooden Komodo dragons to sell to visitors on Komodo Island, or at the airport and in hotels of Labuan Bajo.
When Komodo became a national park in 1980, these villages have already been in existence for about 70 years. The people’s origins can be drawn back to the Sultanate of Bima on Sumbawa Island. Life is not easy for them: as the population has grown massively over the years, they face serious shortages of water and firewood. Besides, pollution and over-fishing, using destructive methods such as dynamite fishing, has endangered marine life – the main source of livelihood and income of the Komodo inhabitants.
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) or “Ora” as the locals call them, is the world’s largest and also one of the oldest living lizards. As already mentioned, it can only be found in the wild in Komodo National Park (more precisely on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Nusa Kode, and Gili Motang) and to a minor extent on Flores’ west and north coasts. Adult dragons can reach a length of up to three meters, with an average weight of around 90kg.
Living mainly on carrion, the dragons also hunt deer and wild pigs, using their strong tail to bring the prey to the ground. Even though they appear rather inert, the dragons can accelerate up to 18 kilometers per hour while hunting. As they have an excellent sense of smell, they can locate their prey from a distance of several kilometers. Prey that is not killed immediately will die of blood poisoning because of the dragons’ septic saliva.
The Komodo dragon is a loner, living solitarily except at times of mating which usually takes place in the dry season between June and August. The female dragons bury their eggs and watch over them for a short time before leaving them to their fate. After nine months, the newly hatched baby dragons immediately climb up a tree to avoid the threat of being devoured by older dragons and other enemies. They live on small lizards and mammals, birds and their eggs, as well as insects. As soon as they get too heavy for tree dwelling, they have to go back to the ground to reach their final stage of adulthood.
The mystery of how the huge dragons found their way to Komodo and why they can only be found there is still not clear, herewith creating a fertile ground for unproven theories and assumptions. A popular theory suggests that periods of low sea levels enabled the dragons to reach Flores by land. As an assumed relic of extinct giant lizards, they only survived because of a lack of natural enemies in these islands’ isolated environment. With less than 2,500 lizards left, the Komodo dragon has now entered the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of endangered species. The most threatening factor to survival is poachers who constantly minimize the population of the Timor deer, the Komodo dragon’s staple food.
The puzzle of how the colossal mythical beasts discovered their approach to Komodo Dragon and why they must be observed there is still not clear, herewith making a rich ground for dubious hypotheses and suppositions. A mainstream hypothesis proposes that times of low ocean levels empowered the monsters to achieve Flores via land. As an accepted relic of terminated titan reptiles, they survived on account of an absence of common adversaries in these islands’ secluded surroundings. With under 2,500 reptiles left, the Komodo dragon has now entered the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red rundown of jeopardized species. The most debilitating variable to survival is poachers who continually minimize the number of inhabitants in the Timor deer, the Komodo Dragon’s staple nourishment.
Komodo Island is the most-visited attraction of Flores. A trip to Komodo Island to see the dragons a totally awesome adventure as they are now no longer kept in an enclosure but free to roam and hunt for food anywhere they please. The experienced and well trained park rangers will take you on a hike through the bush lands of Komodo Island for the experience of a lifetime.
Rinca Island Tour– Rinca Island is one of the main islands of Komodo National Park. Famous for some of the world’s best dive sites and their popular inhabitant – the Komodo dragon – the area attracts thousands of tourists each year. Rinca Island is one of the most visited place too in Komodo National Park, even though it is smaller than Komodo Island where the Komodo dragons can also be found. This island is a good alternative to crowded Komodo Island and takes only 2,5 hours from Labuan bajo.
Rinca, a smaller island where the Komodo dragons can also be found, is a good alternative to crowded Komodo Island. There are innumerous tour operators both within and outside of Flores offering Komodo or Rinca tour packages. Many local guides and boat captains wait to take visitors there from Labuan Bajo
Despite the invasion of tourists, you can still find some quiet and remote areas on Rinca Island. The islands’ interiors consist mostly of dry forests, where you can also encounter other animals than the Komodo dragon: water buffaloes, birds, pigs, and deer. The islands also offer unique beaches and good options for trekking.
Trekking on Rinca Island starts from the ticket office at Loh Buaya. You also have the option to choose between three trails. The shortest trek takes 30 minutes. It is an easy, shaded walk that passes an artificial waterhole before ascending to a small hill with a view over the bay. The one-hour medium trek winds between dragon nests and out into the sunshine across an exposed savannah that is studded with lontar palms. For the best opportunity to see dragons and their prey, choose the two-hour trek past a permanent waterhole and across steep, exposed slopes that offer breathtaking views.
Flores Island is a long, narrow mountainous island which stretches over 350 kilometers with dramatic volcanoes, mountain lakes and flora and fauna like no other island in the region. Even though 85% of its inhabitants are Roman Catholic, the island is still as ethnographically diverse as Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) itself. Some towns of Flores, Maumere, Ende and Labuan Bajo have direct daily flights to Kupang and Bali and is well serviced by ferries and the Pelni ships as well as several privately operated shipping lines.
The Three Colored Lakes of Kelimutu are recognized as a natural wonder. The colors of the lakes have changed over the years, is it the changing chemical or biological composition of the craters’ water causing this color change – ponder on it while you view one of Indonesia’s most mysterious and dramatic sights. Flores Island exemplifies diversity more than any other region of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), from the varying motifs of the Ikat weavings of Sikka, Manggarai and Nggela to the spectacular Three Colored Lakes of Kelimutu contrasting with the pristine coral gardens of the Seventeen Island National Reserve of Riung. Whether giant monitor lizard watching in Damu Bay or experiencing the dusk flight of the thousands of flying foxes on Ontoloe Island – Flores Island is as diverse as it is beautiful.